Sam Evans-Brown

Environment and Education Reporter

 

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for  New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. His work has won several local broadcast journalism awards, and he was a 2013 Steinbrenner Institute Environmental Media Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

Follow Sam's tweets about the environment, education news, and everything else he's tracking.

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A report shows that home foreclosures spiked at the end of last year, up 35% from November.

Jane Law of New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority says foreclosures have been declining since their peak in 2010, and December’s jump might be an anomaly.

Law says, "The biggest factor is just mortgage companies are kind of clearing out some inventory before the end of the year, which is the end of their tax year usually" 

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The New Hampshire House voted to put off making a final decision on a pair of bills that would withdraw the state from No Child Left Behind, and forego $61.6 million dollars in federal funding.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt from Salem cited the lost money as he urged collegues to table the bills.

"There are significant and justifiable concerns about withdrawing from this program," Bettencourt said, "concerns regarding the potential loss of significant federal funds currently being received by our local school districts."

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The New Hampshire House of Representatives is currently awash in education bills, many of which will never see the light of day. However, some of these bills are setting the stage for big discussions about public schools, the role of the state, and the rights of parents.

To help sort through the confusion, the following is a roundup of bills coming before the House between now and Crossover day.

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A bill that would allow small farmers to sell some home-made food without a license has cleared a major hurdle in the House of Representatives.

The bill lets farmers sell up to 20 gallons a day of unpasteurized milk or cheese, and less than $10,000 dollars worth of homemade food from their home or at a farmers market.

NHPR Staff Photo

The Department of Health and Human Services says that changes in the foods offered through the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program or WIC have resulted in improved diets. 

WIC is a national program that gives nutrition education and nutritious foods to pregnant women and new mothers with income up to 185% of the federal poverty line.

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Many proposals encouraging educational choice are pending in Concord this year. One with strong backing would use tax credits to encourage businesses to pay for school scholarships.

Critics say this would starve public schools of much needed funding, but supporters say this is a way to give students more options while avoiding constitutional concerns that have doomed past proposals for school vouchers.

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A governor’s commission has released a report detailing surprising levels of prescription drug abuse in New Hampshire. The commission’s findings give weight to a push to create a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

According to the report, almost 17 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds in New Hampshire say they have abused prescription drugs in the past year. That’s the second highest rate in the country.

American Red Cross

 

The New Hampshire house voted today to repeal the Emergency Powers Act, which allows the government to take private property during a declared state of emergency.

The bill’s supporters call the Emergency Powers Act a government overreach.

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The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban the use of GPS devices to secretly track people. The bill would make such tracking illegal someone without a court order.

This was a bill that seemed destined to disappear: in committee it was voted 14 – 0 to refer it for more study. With an election coming up, that would almost certainly mean that the bill would never be seen again.

Flikr Creative Commons / Renato Ganoza

 

New Hampshire students continue to improve academically, according to the results of the latest round of standardized tests.

The New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, test students in grades 3 through 8 and eleventh graders.

The test shows that 67% of all students are proficient in math, up two percentage points from last year. 79% are proficient in reading, and only 54% are proficient in writing.

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After hearing nearly four hours of public testimony, a senate committee set aside a trio of bills that would loosen gun laws. 

The first bill would give the legislature the exclusive power to prohibit guns on public property – like colleges and the state-house. That would mean that if UNH wanted such a restriction, it would have to get lawmakers to agree.

For Ed Mackay, the chancellor of the University of New Hampshire system, that’s not a good recipe.

The New Hampshire Senate has voted to strengthen the rules for taking private property by eminent domain. But there are questions as to what the wording of the final Senate bill really means.

Mark McCulloch lives in North Stratford, way up North on the Vermont-New Hampshire Border.

His house is smack in the middle of the route for the hydro-electric transmission project, Northern Pass, the 180 mile transmission line that would bring electricity from Canada to New England.

A House Committee has voted to recommend that New Hampshire pull out of No Child Left Behind.

Republican lawmakers on the House education committee cited local control and small government as reasons to withdraw the state from No Child Left Behind.

The vote was along party lines.

The dissenting democrats say they too are frustrated with the federal education laws, but are concerned about the federal money the state would lose if it withdrew from the program.

If the bill passes the state would forfeit $63 million in federal grants.

Lawmakers heard testimony Monday about a bill that would give public school students an average of $2,500 for homeschooling or private school attendance.

The funds would come from a tax credit given to businesses that donate to state-certified scholarship programs.

 “In the last decade eight states have launched education tax credit programs to expand educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students,” said House Majority DJ Bettencourt, who sponsored the legislation.

“Education tax credit programs have saved money in other states,” said Bettencourt.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

An industry group has put out a new study that disputes Public Service of New Hampshire’s claims about the number of jobs the Northern Pass project will create.

The study cuts PSNH’s jobs prediction in half.

A trade group representing power plant owners commissioned an independent analyst to study how many jobs the Northern Pass project might create.

That analysis found that the project could expect to create just over 600 jobs in New Hampshire, about half of the 1,200 jobs figure released by Northern Pass.

Flikr Creative Commons / IRIN Photos

 

Every year New Hampshire takes in hundreds of refugees from all around the world.

They have fled wars, persecution, and even torture in their home countries, and some bear scars – both inside and out. After the trauma they have endured some refugees arrive with undiagnosed mental illness, but identifying and treating these patients is no easy task.

The New Hampshire House has passed its redistricting plan. Below are three maps to help  you see what's proposed and how it's different from today's voting districts.

  • The first map shows the proposed House districts, including the "floaterials" which appear as green overlays on the map
  • The second is the proposed districts without the floterials, colored by the number of representatives which would be elected from each district.
  • The third is the previous districts, color coded in the same way.

New Districts with Floterials New Districts without FloterialsPrevious Districts

 

Sam Evans-Brown

 The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a redistricting plan, but not before defeating a counter proposal from fellow republicans

A breakaway group of republicans made a strong showing with a revised map of house voting districts

The alternative map would keep Manchester whole, instead of lumping one of its wards with the town of Litchfield.

Flikr Creative Commons / xMizLitx

 

A house committee heard public testimony on a bill that would withdraw the state from the federal education requirements under No Child Left Behind.

But pulling out would mean the state would forfeit more than $60 million in federal money.

The sponsor of the bill, twenty-year-old representative Weeden from Dover,  says that No-Child-Left-Behind, or NCLB, has created a culture of teaching to the test that has reduced the quality of education overall.

NHPR Staff Photo

 

The House judiciary committee heard testimony today about three bills that would make it more difficult for a private utility to use eminent domain to acquire land. 

Opponents of the Northern Pass project sponsor the bills, saying the planned electric transmission lines would not benefit to the state.

Republican representative Baldasaro from Londonderry gave testimony in favor of tightening up eminent domain rules.

Flikr Creative Commons / drocpsu

 

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation signed a letter asking federal regulators not to lower the catch limit on Atlantic Cod.

The federal lawmakers say that fishermen in the Granite State already have their backs against the wall.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen says lowering the catch limit on Cod could lead to the loss of 90% of the fishermen’s revenue.

Shaheen: it has potential to almost wipe out our fishing industry in New Hampshire because so much of their revenue comes from cod and inshore ground fishing.

Marc Nozell

 

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wants to put New Hampshire in the rear view mirror.

His followers are already looking forward to South Carolina.

Gingrich supporter Warren Kindler from Epping isn’t surprised that Gingrich didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. 

Kindler: Mitt’s had a long time to campaign in New Hampshire he’s very well known, he’s fairly well liked he’s a neighboring ex-governor, former governor

Todd Bookman

The ballroom here at the Radisson hotel has yet to get really crowded, but Newt supporters in attendance remain enthusiastic. One supporter, Glenn Fiscus,  is unsurprised with Newt's poor showing in New Hampshire saying, "Romney did a hatchet job on him in Iowa," referring to the attack ads run by a pro-Romney group in that state. When asked how he liked Newt's chances going forward, Fiscus nods knowingly and says, "We'll see in South Carolina." A pro-Newt group in South Carolina has spent $3.2 million on a negative ad campaign in South Carolina.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

The entire nation is watching as voting begins in today’s Republican Primary.

Meanwhile democrat voters are quietly turning out for that other primary.

SFX: Phone bank sounds

The night before primary day, volunteers are hard at work calling potential voters.

Kuster: Hi, is this Mrs. Singer? How are you this is Annie Kuster, calling from the Obama headquarters.

Ann Mclane Kuster, a democratic candidate for congress in 2012, was out working the phones.

Republican Presidential Candidates Make Last Push

Jan 9, 2012

 

Mitt Romney spent his Monday focusing vote-rich southern New Hampshire. He started at a chamber of commerce breakfast Nashua, where a comment he made about choice in health care,

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,”

became a late-breaking flashpoint.  Democrats and republicans rivals Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman all piled on. So much so that at Romney’s next stop in Hudson he called a press conference, his first since the Iowa caucuses, to defuse the matter.

 

The number of fatal crashes on New Hampshire roads dropped in 2011 by nearly a third.

The coordinator of the Highway Safety Agency, Peter Thomson, says that the state police are targeting factors that cause fatal crashes: speed, distracted driving, and drugs and alcohol.

He says so far this year, eighty-seven people have died in crashes, which is the lowest number in fifty years.

He credits, among other things, the safe commute program which the state police instituted this year.

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A Portsmouth bookstore that was saved from closing by local investors will be shutting its doors for the month of January.

Tom Holbrook, one of the owners of RiverRun Books, had hoped that the store would only be closed for a week or so when it moved to a new space.

But renovations on the new store weren’t completed in time and the lease on the old one was up, so for the month of January RiverRun will only be selling books online.

iagoarchangel / Flikr Creative Commons

 

A winter that has begun with warm nights and balmy days, has given the ski season a rocky start.

According to SkiNH revenues at New Hampshire ski areas are behind the same point last year.

Most of New Hampshire’s Ski areas were finally able to open this past week, but with a rain storm in the forecast, prospects for a profitable holiday season are dim.

And Karl Stone of SkiNH says that the holidays are crucial.

jcbwalsh / flikr Creative Commons

 

Flakes will start to fly tonight after an unseasonably warm December.

NHPR talked to a National Weather Service forecaster about the probability of a white Christmas.

According to weather data, on any given year there’s at least at 75% chance there will be snow on the ground in New Hampshire Christmas day.

Michael Esker – a forecaster in Gray, Maine – thinks that probability isn’t going to change this year.

A storm will shoot through tonight, leaving just enough snow to frost the state and make things look festive.

 

In an attempt to save $400,000 in Medicaid spending, State health officials are planning major funding cuts to child and family health programs. 

 

Lisabritt Solsky, the deputy director of Medicaid, said state health officials had no choice but to make the cuts.

Solsky: The legislature acted and reduced our budget, the funding is gone for this, it is not something we asked for and it is not something we promoted

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